Milburn Stone Theatre to get sound upgrade
NORTH EAST — One of the most frequent criticisms the Milburn Stone Theatre receives about its shows is the poor sound quality. But that will soon change.
About six months after launching a campaign to update its sound system, the theater’s 25-year-old sound system will be replaced this summer.
At its meeting last week, Cecil College’s board of trustees passed a resolution to award a $240,497 contract to Lee Hartman & Sons Inc., of Baltimore, to replace the aging system. Installation of the new system will start shortly after the theater’s production of “American Idiot” wraps up on June 19 and finish before the theater’s production of “A Few Good Men” takes the stage on Aug. 5, said Bob Denton, the theater’s technical director.
“It’s been needed to be replaced for a while,” Denton said of the sound system. “It’s as old as the theater, and I believe some of the theater equipment was used when it was installed.”
Funding for the new sound system comes from a fundraising effort started last fall by the theater and the Cecil College Foundation. The effort, dubbed “Save Our Sound,” raised a total of $100,000 so far, said Adam Kamras, Cecil College spokesman.
Of that amount, $50,000 came in the form of a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s rural development program and the rest came from private donations, Kamras said. The foundation is working with the theater on other fundraising initiatives to raise the remaining $140,000 for the sound system. The “Save Our Sound” campaign will continue through October 2016, Kamras added.
The current sound system has gotten a lot of use over the years. With the theater doing so many shows, it can be difficult to find time to do regular maintenance, Denton said. In addition, when actors have multiple costume changes in a show, the microphones get pulled off one outfit and put on another quite frequently, causing a lot of wear and tear, he added.
Along with the newer equipment, the replacement sound system will also come with some updates such as a software system that will allow the sound engineer to go out into the audience with an iPad to adjust sound levels instead of making adjustments from the booth, Denton said. As part of the project, the theater will also install a pair of video monitors facing the stage so the actors can see the conductor better when a show has an orchestra, he added.
“We’re trying to get the theater up to current industry standards,” Denton noted.
The sound system project is one of the many proposed upgrades to the theater included in the college’s 20162016 Campus Master Plan, which the board of trustees approved in February. Along with the sound system, the plan also calls for renovations that would address several problems with the current space, including the cramped lobby, small restrooms and the location of the ticket window.
To address these prob- lems, the master plan proposes pushing out the theater’s outer lobby wall to create a larger lobby and adding a ticket window so people wouldn’t have to come inside the theater to pick up tickets. The art gallery currently in the theater building would also be moved to another building, allowing the bathrooms to be expanded.
But though there’s no set date for when these more extensive renovations might take place, theater patrons will hear the effects of the new sound system as early as the fall. Not only will the new sound system make for a better theater-going experience, it will also allow the theater to host a greater variety of shows and college events, Denton said.
“I feel like it’s going to help us better serve the community,” he said.